Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it. – Christopher Morley
“It was raining when I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris yesterday. The custom official asked me “Vous avez- quelque chose declarer ? Tous vins, spiritueux, cigares, parfums…” . I nervously presumed he was asking me: “Have you anything to declare? Any wines, spirits, cigars, perfumes…” I couragely blurted out the only french line I know: “Excusez-moi, Je ne parle pas francais! ” (Excuse me, I don’t speak french).
Oh my God…I recall my first week in Italy. I felt like a trapped rat not knowing where to run to get my food. It was difficult to communicate so I decided to enroll in an Italian class.
First day of class…
I have never felt so intimidated in a class as I just did in my Italian class. From the moment my severe looking professor showed up, I knew I was in trouble. She was spewing Italian like a champ greeting everyone out in the hallway and I whispered to one of my classmates, “Are we supposed to understand this?”
I was fine to introduce myself. I tried learning the basic conversations in italian beforehand.
“Mi chiamo Ros (My name is Ros).”
I remember that much at least, but when Professor Martini went around the classroom asking “Come va la vita?” (How’s life treating you?) well I was stumped… mostly I was just terrified at the fact that not only am I taking a class at 8,30 a.m. which is terribly early for me who rarely crawls into bed before 2 a.m., but also that this is a FOREIGN LANGUAGE class.
Oh oh, I begun perspiring. I frantically tried to retrieve from my memory bank my Spanish in college as it has some similarities with Italian but all I could think about was Adios Patria Adorada, Noli Me Tangere (works of our national hero, Jose Rizal) and how I used to sit in class reading a love letter inside my spanish book. Luckily I received a high grade for Spanish but that was approximately one million years ago!
I managed to make it through class with my sweating palms, nervously writing down all the words I didn’t understand and promising myself to study those first five chapters my Professor asked me to do.
It’s good for me to feel dumb sometimes, keeps me in my place.
Today, I learned 10 phrases in French …here are some examples with matching pronunciation:
A. During candid conversation
- 1. “Would you stop spitting on me while you’re talking!”
“Voulez-vous cesser de me cracher dessus pendant que vous parlez!”
(voo – lay voo se – say de me cra – shay de – su pen – dan que voo parl – ay)
- 2. “Reality and you don’t get on, do they?”
“Le réalité et toi, vous ne vous entendez pas, n’est-ce pas?”
(le ree – al – ee – tay eh twa voo ne voo zen – ten – day pah nes pah)
B. On helping others
- 3. “Stop bothering me!”
“Parle à mon cul, ma tête est malade” (parl a mon cul, ma teht eh ma – lahd)
- 4. “Do it yourself.”
“Faites-le vous-même” (fay – teh le voo mehm)
C. Inside a restaurant…
5. “This restaurant isn’t as good as Mc.Donald’
“Ce restaurant n’est pas aussi bon que le Mc.Donalds’
(se re – staw – ran neh pas o – si bon ke le mac don – alds)
- 6. “How many of your customers have died?”
“Combien de vos clients sont morts?” (com – byen de vo clee – ent sont moo – ree)
- 7. “Haven’t the police found you yet?”
“La police, ne t’a pas encore trouvé?”
(la po – lees ne ta pa zen – cor troo – vay)
- 8. “You’ve got a face that would blow off manhole covers”
“T’as une tête a faire sauter les plaques d’egouts!”
(ta zoon tait a fair saw – teh leh plahk de – goo)
E. Dealing with parents of children
- 9. “Your children are very attractive. Are they adopted?”
“Vos enfants sont très beaux. Ils sont adoptes?”
(vo zen – fant son tray boh. Il sont a – dop – te)
- 10. “My God your children are ugly!”
“Mon Dieu, que vos enfants sont laids”
(Mon dyer ke voe zen – fant son lay)
By the way, don’t forget to speak french with your nose!
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. – Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.- Robert Louis Stevenson